St. Fachnan's Marches On

Clare Champion, Friday, 12th March 1999

From humble beginnings over a century and a half ago, St. Fachnan's of Kilfenora has grown to be one of the most respected primary schools in North Clare. It owes its existence largely to the efforts of one man, Andrew Quinn, who began a thirty-five year appointment as Parish Priest in 1834. The school started life in the local chapel - where the present Catholic Church now stands with teacher, Patrick Hease, and a roll call of seventy-six boys and thirty-six girls.

By 1835, the school had moved base to a two roomed thatched building on the site occupied today by the Burren Centre. After exhaustive campaigning by Fr. Quinn, it was eventually granted national school status and a new building went up in 1841 on land donated by John O'Brien, MP of Edenvale and Ballinalacken. At the time, the population of the parish was in the region of four thousand and salaries of 25 or 30 annually for teachers, James Grady and John O'Toole, derived solely from the parents. The school continued to serve generations of children from the village and surrounding countryside until 1958 when a new building was constructed on a one acre site at the western end of Kilfenora's Main Street.

Since then, many parts of the building and playground have been improved and repaired. Up to twenty three years ago, the playground at the rear of the school was unplayable but, in the summer of 1975, locals volunteered to excavate, level and reseed the space. Two years later, half the area was overlaid with tarmacadam and lined for tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. A green area was also reserved for Gaelic games while an extra classroom, GP room, ancillary rooms, toilets and a new central heating system were completed in 1986.

But everyone knows it's not the building which makes the school, and St. Fachnan's is alive today with the laughter of sixty-five young pupils who attend classes from junior infants to sixth. Over the past two decades, however, students numbers have dropped. The figures are down from one hundred and thirty five in the late seventies while St. Fachnan's also recently lost their fourth teacher.

Like every other school around the county, St. Fachnan's takes an active interest in hurling and Gaelic football, reaching county finals in competitions on a number of occasions. As well as sports, pupils are encouraged to take part in any number of extra-curricular activities. They in turn, are expected to adhere to the disciplinary obligations, obey the rules and to try their best. The main concern for school authorities is ensuring that pupils individuality is catered for while their right to an education in a disruption-free environment is upheld.

Principal, John Keane, welcomes any and all pupils attending or considering attending St. Fachnan's from a large catchment area that includes Ballykeale, Caherminane, Kilcarragh and Tullaha.

Two of a kind - Kilfenora N.S. has its very
own set of twins - Matthew and Daniel Egan.
    The girls get together at lunchtime in Kilfenora N.S. -
Caoimhe O'Dea, Amy Bradley, Allison Doyle,
Stephanie Doyle, Ashling Kildea and Shona Long.

Photographs from The Clare Champion.

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